Review by me frog

"More of the same, but who's to complain?"

When Golden Sun made its debut on the Game Boy Advance two years ago, word of mouth spread about the wonderful complexity, graphics, and sound packed within the RPG. With cutting edge visuals, a wonderful combat system (that seemed to echo off of Final Fantasy), a rich adventure, and an excellent storyline, Golden Sun seemed too good to be true.

But then the game just stopped.

Golden Sun's disappointingly short quest (15-20 hours, lower than a standard RPG) and cliffhanger ending left gamers wanting more, which is now being presented to them in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the long awaited sequel to one of the greatest handheld RPGs in history. Is it worth the wait? Definitely. Does it capture the wit, beauty, and complexity of the predecessor? Absolutely. Does it take the game even deeper than the first installment? Not really. There's not many new things that have been added to The Lost Age. It's basically more of the same, but who's to complain? All the things that made the first game terrific is back again in The Lost Age. Of course, this means that if Golden Sun didn't rock your boat, chances are this won't do anything either. But for fans who loved the first one, or are looking for a great, lengthy RPG, The Lost Age is for you.

The game begins shortly before the original Golden Sun ends, in which Felix and the gang are escaping the lighthouse just before it all goes to hell. For people saying, “Felix? Lighthouse?” don't fret. The game features a long introduction that sums up the entire first portion of the story, and is possible to skip if you're already a veteran. The plot gets even more complex this time as new characters are introduced and new twists are addressed. It'll have more impact if you played the first installment, but the game does a pretty good job of re-introducing the characters if you're just starting out.

The game, like the original, has excellent pacing and as you progress through the main quest. New sub-plots are introduced, and sub-plots that weren't resolved in the original Golden Sun will wrap up in this game, and even tie into the main storyline. The game also introduces a host of new characters, heroes and villains alike. Everyone from the old game makes a return, though don't expect to see Golden Sun's heroes for a while – the game focuses more on Felix and his gang, who were secondary characters in the original installment.

The gameplay of The Lost Age is exactly the same as Golden Sun. Literally nothing has been changed. The game takes place in the same massive world of Weyard, and although you cannot revisit any of the old places from the first game, there are plenty of new locations to get to. You'll end up traveling in a flying ship, a la Final Fantasy's airships (more on that later), for quick transportation around the massive overworld. Scattered throughout the game are many towns and caves, each having something of a significance.

The game also features its share of puzzles – even more massive and more challenging than the first. While some puzzles return from the original Golden Sun, no two puzzles are the same in The Lost Age, keeping every new area fresh. The game is significantly longer than the first Golden Sun, a thirty or forty hour game. The challenge level has raised as well, as battles are more difficult right from the get-go.

Aside from that, there's really nothing else that differs the gameplay from Golden Sun - there is a massive amount of new djinni (the “summons” of the game) and unlike the last game, different elements can be combined to make new summons. Also, the strategy in capturing these djinn has been altered. No longer can you simply fight a djinn to capture it. Long chase sequences, full of their own puzzles, are involved if you want the powerful creatures to join your quest. And because of that, there is a much bigger sense of accomplishment when capturing a djinn this time around.

The battle system is your typical turn-based combat, exactly the same as Golden Sun's. Players have the option to attack, use psynergy, or use djinn to summon powerful creatures. “Smart” attacking is once again missing – that is, if two characters attack on enemy, and the first defeats the baddie, the second will simply “defend” as opposed to attacking the next baddie. In an age where pretty much all RPGs contain the feature, there is no excuse to leave it out. Far into the game, you'll have the ability to use eight different characters in battle. Similar to Final Fantasy X these characters can be swapped out with only a couple of button presses.

Something added to The Lost Age that, as stated before, definitely echoes Final Fantasy is the ability to travel in a flying ship across the overworld. At some points in the game, you'll have to use the ship to navigate puzzles, such as getting past a massive whirlpool or flying over rocks. It's one of the new gameplay elements that adds not only another layer of challenge, but improves upon the navigation of the Overworld that was quite tedious in the old game. It's a welcome addition, yet another element of strategy thrown into the mix.

And anyone who felt that the long, text-driven cinema scenes in Golden Sun were too tedious is going to find the same problem here. Characters talk for ten minutes at a time, occasionally throwing in those pointless “Yes/No” questions given to include some type of interaction. While it is necessary to explain the story, perhaps splitting the cut-scenes in two, with a little gameplay in between, would have been a better option. And those who are playing through the game a second time won't be able to skip the story sequences, brining up another level of tediousness if they just want to plow through the game once again.

Golden Sun received massive critical acclaim for it's battle sequences, animation, and impressive, stylistic look for the Game Boy Advance. While making absolutely no improvements this time around, the game still looks as sharp as ever. The overworld is surprisingly detailed, with trees, beaches, dirt, and caves placed all over the map. Of course, it's the same situation with the towns – colorful and detailed. However, the graphics of the world and towns are outdone by some of the most impressive GBA sequences I have ever scene: the battles. Special effects are everywhere – the hundreds of attacks have a different animation, and the summons look absolutely stunning. The power of the Game Boy Advance has never shone more brightly than Golden Sun and The Lost Age proves it once again.

The game features a terrific epic soundtrack – the overworld theme is one of the best I've ever heard. While the game chooses to mix and match some of the old tunes of the game – some of them even make returns late in the game - there are plenty of new tracks to be heard, and the new ones manage to surpass the old Golden Sun tunes on almost every level. And rather than the "digital" and "Game Boy" sound combinations that the original Golden Sun made use of to create its soundtrack, The Lost Age pumps powerful tunes that sound truly orchestrated, giving the game an even bigger sense of adventure. The sound effects are also quite impressive – there is a variety of sounds in the battles that make the action seem even more fast paced. Explosions, beams, tornadoes, fire, lighting – it's all there.

Finally, one of The Lost Age's best features is ability to transfer all of your data, right down to the last potion, from the previous game. Using either a link cable or a 200 character password, you can move everything from the old game into the new one. When reuniting with your old party, you will start off with everything you left off with in the last game. The game starts the old gang off at a reasonable level and four djinns, just in case you don't have any data. It's a damn good starting point, and it possibly may surpass the level of your main party.

If you're looking for an extended experience that the original Golden Sun offered, look no further. The game features all of the elements of the original game. If you are, however, looking for a new take on things, similar to the direction the Final Fantasy or Xenosaga games have taken, you'll find nothing here. Camelot originally intended Golden Sun to be one game, and that's obvious from the get-go. But the game is longer, more challenging, and more intense than ever. Of course, with the advancements the Game Boy Advance has made in technology, The Lost Age could have used some improvements, but even still, the game surpasses many Game Boy Advance games made today. A terrific RPG, and a stunning conclusion to the story, The Lost Age will not disappoint.


Over and out.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/28/06, Updated 07/31/06

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